Walk This Way

Walk This Way

Grace United Methodist Church

May 22, 2011

John 14: 1-14 (NIV)

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going.”

5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

8Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

9Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

The other day, I heard that I can do even greater things than Christ. Now, I’m not trying to brag here, I’m just telling you what I heard. And if you were listening this morning, you heard the same thing. But can you fathom that? Would you believe it if you were told that YOU could do even greater things than Christ? It doesn’t really sound possible that any human could achieve greater things than Christ, and when we consider our salvation in Christ, there is not even really a comparison. Yet, in this passage from John, Christ says exactly that. He says, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” Whoever believe in Christ will do the works that he did, and even greater things!

It sort of feels sinful to even think that is possible, doesn’t it? How could we ever compare to Christ? Think of all he did and accomplished. He changed water into wine. He walked on water. He healed the blind and the hemorrhaging. He interacted with all sorts of people, without any prejudice. Jesus walked all over the place, teaching everywhere about a God who was coming to his people in a new way. He even argued boldly with the Pharisees and ate dinner with tax collectors. Jesus raised people from the dead. And after he died on a Roman cross, he defeated death himself, in his Resurrection on the third day. He was God’s Son and the Son of Man, who came to reveal God and proclaim God’s new kingdom in the world. How could Jesus ever think that his mere human disciples would do greater things than he?

The fact of the matter is that we won’t ever be able to do many of those things we associate with Jesus, at least not on our own. We won’t change water into wine or walk on water. Except with a good diagnosis and some modern medicine, we will not heal in the way Jesus did. We might revive people, but we will likely never call a dead person out of his tomb as Jesus did. But these aren’t really the kinds of things that Jesus had in mind when he was speaking to his disciples anyway. As God’s Son, Jesus knew that he came to this earth to do the will of the Father. Jesus came to proclaim the love of God and the establishment of God’s new kingdom, which would reign on earth as in heaven; a kingdom of justice and mercy for all people. Jesus came so that we might know God fully and completely. Jesus’ greatest work was that he revealed God to the people around him.

            So, if Jesus is not around, how will God be revealed to the people of the world? Well, Jesus knows that he will not be on earth forever, but he also knows that his great work must continue. And so as he prepares for his ascension to the right hand of the throne of God, he also has to prepare his disciples. The passage we heard from John this morning is the beginning of that preparation. Jesus knows that he will soon be departing this world, and so he takes a moment in the Upper Room to emphasize the link between the believers’ continuing work, and the work that Jesus has begun. And Jesus makes clear that the success of the disciples’ works is directly dependent on Jesus’ departure to the Father. “Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”

The final events of Jesus’ days on earth — his death, resurrection, and ascension — show forth the fullness of his love for God and the fullness of God’s love for the world. Now, says Jesus, the works of his disciples, which will be done after he departs from this world, are even greater because they will reveal the completed story of God’s Word made flesh and the radical love of God for the world. So the works of Jesus’ disciples are not greater than Jesus’ works because of anything special about the disciples themselves, but because they belong to the new age begun by Jesus himself. And as a part of this new kingdom, believers continue the glorification of God through Jesus that was the very purpose of Jesus’ own works. That is a great thing, is it not?!? Think of how Jesus changed lives by introducing people to the loving God. And now, as Jesus disciples, we are to continue that work; to reveal God to others! We can do even greater things than Christ himself, because as Christ’s own body at work in this world, we can continue to share the love of God with more and more people everyday. Christ’s transformational work can continue through us, Christ’s disciples, the church!

So how can we continue Christ’s work in this world with the great fruitfulness that Christ expects of us? We do it by pointing to Christ, who is “the way and the truth and the life.” I heard a story earlier this week about a man who was trying to learn about Buddhist philosophy and the Buddhist understanding of God and other religions. On a trip to Indonesia, the man visited with some Buddhist monks and sat with them many hours as the monks explained their beliefs. Finally, feeling that he understood, the man summarized what he had learned. “So, you’re telling me that it’s like God sits at the top of a mountain, and there are many paths that we humans can take up that mountain to God?”

“That’s right!” the monks said.

“Well, what if instead of following those different paths up the mountain to God, God came down the mountain to us?” the man asked.

Slightly surprised, the monks’ eyes brightened in joyful thoughtfulness, “That would be wonderful!” they told the man.

Then the man leaned in as he replied, “Let me tell you about a man named Jesus.”[1]

Like those disciples gathered together in the Upper Room listening to Jesus say farewell, we can get scared thinking about continuing his work in this world without him. But we don’t have to find our way up a mountain. Nor is our task to try and direct others up the same treacherous mountain path. We need only to tell others about Christ, “the way and the truth and the life.” We need only point to Christ who is God in our very midst; God who, in his infinite grace, has stepped down the mountain so that all might know him.

Think of those times when God has stepped down the mountain in your life. When God created us, he didn’t put us permanently in a set of revolving doors, like those that go around and around in front of big buildings. Even though we feel like we’re running in circles sometimes, Jesus has come to show us the way. God has created us with a purpose. Life has a goal to it. We are created to journey through life to an end. And the way to that end, Jesus says today, is through him. We don’t have to wander up the mountain, stumbling over every root and rock. There is a better way into God’s presence. And Jesus tells us today that it is through him that we find the way, for Jesus bring God to us. And when Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life,” those words are an invitation to know God as well as an example of how to live our lives so that we can continue the work that Christ began.

We can know the way and continue Christ’s work because Jesus’ life was a witness to the truth, that was why Jesus said, “I am the truth.” When we look at Jesus, we see the truth about ourselves. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to look at Jesus sometimes, because when we look at Jesus, we see the fullness of our corruption — the ugliness of our lives, the sinfulness of our thoughts and deed, the blemishes of selfishness and pride, and our failure to continue Christ’s work. But when we look at Christ, we also see the truth about God, our God who wipes all that wickedness away. In Jesus, we see the very nature of God, whose love for us is unearned, undeserved, and most unexpected. And when we look at Jesus, we learn the truth about the life God wants us to live. We, too, are to love, to forgive, to show mercy, to welcome each other; we are continue Christ’s great work, to be part of the truth about God.

It is in knowing Jesus as “the way and the truth” that we are able to experience God as “the life.” For without Jesus, there is no life in us. Left to our own, judged by our own thoughts and deeds, there is no hope for us. And, in fact, that, too, is the message of scripture, isn’t it? Do you remember Paul’s words? “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” And “The wages of sin is death.” Without Jesus there is no life. That’s why these words are so sweet to our ears; because Jesus also says, “I am the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” These words remind us that Jesus is our life. They are Jesus’ invitation to all to come to him, to receive in him the gift of life that God created for all.

So how do we come to know the way and the truth of God in Jesus Christ? How do we experience abundant life and help others to do the same? The key is faith. It is faith that brings God’s blessings to life for us. It is faith that takes us not to the foot of a perilous mountain, but to the feet of God. It is faith that enables us to see the truth about our lives and to embrace the truth about God. It is faith that brings God’s gift of life to us. And it is faith that enables us to continue Christ’s great work and share the blessings of God with others. Faith comes from trusting in Jesus’ word, living with God, following Christ’s example, and continuing Christ’s work.

Through faith in Jesus Christ, all can come into God’s presence. That is the gospel; it is God’s promise to us. In Jesus, we have “the way and the truth and the life” that God creates us to be; not only us, but the whole world. That is why Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these.” So let’s believe, let’s have faith, and let’s show others The Way into God’s presence!

[1] David Platt, Radical (Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2010), 33.

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